Training leaders is hard work. Training costs you time, energy, and resources. Most pay the cost without a clear process and plan. In other words, we invest in the time, energy, and resources in training without a thoughtful and consistent process. After all that hard work we come back asking these questions:

How do leaders develop? How do you give them everything they need so they can lead effectively?

Photo Credit: Tekniska museet via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Tekniska museet via Compfight cc

What is possible? How much training would be too much? What is essential?

A new missional community leader needs information. They need to learn and interact with the theory and philosophy behind missional community life. They have to examine it biblically and hear from people who have done it before. The leaders we train need a classroom environment.

A new missional community leader needs skills. They need to learn how. You can’t learn how without doing. The leaders we train will need time practicing and growing in skills. This doesn’t simply happen by being in a missional community! Observation, feedback, and assessment is hard work that allows leaders to grow through experience.

A new missional community leader needs character growth. Their motivations, their sins, their practice of repentance and faith, and their internalizing of all that is happening is perhaps the most crucial component. Leaders need one-on-one development.

The cost of training leaders is found in traditional classroom training, hands-on practice, and one-on-one development (a.k.a coaching). This is how we do those core components in Bread&Wine. How could you develop and implement a strategy that works in your context?

Traditional Classroom

Develop a standard equipping calendar with trainings on what is a missional community, how to start one, and how to lead people once you’ve started. Also, make sure you include supplemental trainings on shepherding, how to care for the marginalized, gospel fluency, sharing the story of God, etc. The now rich history of missional community leadership plus technology has made this training easily accessible. You can download, listen, and watch trainings from every missional stream: Soma, 3DM, Crowded House, or Missio. You can even get lots of it in one centralized location on at the Verge Network. This is a good thing! Training is important and all of these practitioners and tribes have great things to contribute.

If you are charged with equipping the saints in your congregation, you will need to create a training structure and wade through this content to know what and how you will teach leaders to lead missional communities. In Bread&Wine we have created three environments for this training to happen:

The Essentials of Gospel, Community, and Mission

This is a four hour class we encourage everyone in our church to participate in, at least once. This is our training on what a missional community is and what it means to be part of one. We do this training almost every month and we do the teaching component every fall in our Sunday gatherings.

Quarterly Trainings

We have three strategic trainings we offer leaders and leaders-in-training each year. How to Start and Lead a Gospel Community (Late Fall), Leading into Shared Mission (Mid Spring), How to Lead in Gospel Intentionality (Late Spring). We have found these three trainings fundamental in getting leaders ready to lead a missional community.

Annual Leader Retreat

We have annual retreats that have multiple components which include relational connection, rest, and encouragement. However, each retreat also has a training component that changes each year. We use these retreats to train long-time and new leaders in a specific areas of leadership. In the past we have trained leaders in seasonal goals, shepherding, prayer, missional covenants/commitments, and how to lead the Story of God. Our thinking is we can only introduce so many new trainings to our leaders before they enter overload. Our role as elders and equippers is to prayerfully decide what is one thing all our leaders need training in for that year.

Hands On Experience

A well rounded leadership equipping program will also have an apprenticeship component where new leaders observe and lead under an experienced leader within the context of a missional community. In this way it is not longer theory to be appreciated but a life to participate in. Within this environment we try to be intentional with a new leader’s growth. Here are four ways we help leaders grow by doing.

Honest Assessment of gifts, strengths, and perspective

We have a 2hr hour long assessment we do with leaders where we hear their story, perspectives, and areas of strength and growth. We also utilize assessments like StrengthsFinder to help the leader understand their gifts.This assessment process helps us know the strengths and opportunities for growth. Much of this information gets added to their Leadership Development Plan.

Real Responsibility

This means we give “Leaders in Training” jobs, tasks, and areas of oversight over the course of their preparation. For example, hospitality, leading a DNA group or Fight Club, facilitating the discussions, or being the missional leader.

Constructive Feedback

As they exercise leadership, we give them feedback on how it went, how their leadership was received, and how they can improve. We also hear how the leaders are feeling, thinking, and wanting to improve.

Participate in Regular Leader Meetings and Discussions

Every leadership team of a missional community gets together regularly to discuss the direction, next steps, and state of their community. We invite leaders in training into these times to observe the shepherding aspect of leadership.

One on One Development

This is the most crucial and costly element. It is also the most forgotten.

While much of the training is happening above within a traditional classroom and sharing life in a missional community, we coach leaders one-on-one. Utilizing their Leadership Development Plan and our approach to coaching, we disciple and train a leader around the head, heart, and hand. This relationship is the backbone of our training. New leaders need to be connected with, encouraged, and challenged in their lives. We want to share life with leaders in training while they prepare for sending and multiplication.

Brad A. Watson serves as a pastor of Soma Culver City in Los Angeles, California where he develops, coaches, and trains leaders to form communities that love God and serve the city. Brad is passionate about helping people live lives that reflect their belief and hope in Jesus. He lives in the west side of Los Angeles with his wife and their three kids.